Wednesday, January 8, 2014
TARDIS Travels: Exploring Doctor Who part 1
My wife and I have been convalescing from an illness. So we used this time to catch up on two series we have put on the back burner: Fullmetal Alchemist and Doctor Who.
Of the former, I'm sure I will write later. But I wish to focus on the later. And something tells me I will be writing more and more on this.
Doctor Who has been in my mind for a long time. I had very little experience with the original series, except a few moments of seeing Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, on PBS. I remember begin creeped out by the tone of what I saw, confused by what looked like a sci-fi show on a soap opera set, but intrigued.
And over the years I've heard more and more about the rebooted Doctor Who. And as time has marched on I've seen more and more people getting sucked into loving the TARDIS traveling alien.
So I have started with the 2005 reboot of the series, intending to catch up to the premiere of the new series staring Peter Capaldi.
I just finished Season 1 and I have a few observations:
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 BELOW
1. Tone. The series has a very odd tone that is strange and comedic but then flips into serious melodrama. I'm not saying this is bad, but it can be problematic. The only show I've seen that has handled the incredibly silly and the direly serious in such close proximity is NBC's Chuck. Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, for the most part, a serious show with comedic elements. On Doctor Who, the silliness seems baked right in. It is difficult to take seriously a dire threat to the world when your enemy a bunch of farting aliens.
2. Social Commentary. Charlie Rose once asked Steve Jobs and John Lassiter if it was easier to do political commentary in cartoons because the medium allows for disconnect from immediate places and events. Both men said that they didn't wish to do any politics in their cartoons, because when you tie a piece of art to a particular social issue, it is no longer timeless. Watching the first season, it is clear that the producers were trying to make several comments about 24-hour news, reality TV, militarism, etc. But they make the show that should be outside of space and time feel dated. I remember when Stewie on Family Guy teased someone for making an outdated Weakest Link joke. And yet there is an episode that is based around that long forgotten TV show.
3. Slow build. One of the things I liked about the show was that as the season started coming to a close, it brought together threads from all of the previous episodes that seemed to be unrelated. I always like this form of storytelling, where there is a pattern, but you were so wrapped up in the smaller story that you barely noticed.
4. Christopher Eccleston. A lot of the time his mannerisms seemed way over the top, especially his over-exubberance. But when the moments became quiet, when he let the cheery charade down, I could see some real charisma in his eyes. My take on his Doctor was that of a man of deep sorrow and rage doing his best to lose himself in the wonder of another (Rose), hoping to become the man he is pretending to be. Maybe I'm wrong, but that was my impression.
5. Sadness. There is a lot of sadness in Doctor Who beneath all of the silliness. The episode "Father's Day" was a tragic as it was inevitable. And when the Doctor regenerated, I had come to realize that I had actually become quite attached to Eccleston's performance, even with the issues I had. Watching his final scenes with Rose was heartbreaking.
So those are my observations. I'll check in when I get through Season 2